Avoid Premature Crises: 5 Lessons From Dow Chemical’s PR Disaster

Last week Dow Chemical mistakenly sent news of massive layoffs and plant closures to a Bloomberg News reporter days ahead of schedule. The error forced the company to release their Q3 financials ahead of schedule and undoubtedly threw human resources into disarray as they planned to announce the layoffs closer to the weekend.

Keeping sensitive information secure is not easy however there are a few simple steps you can take to avoid a similar disaster.

Review, Review, Review
Your employees are your biggest assets. One manager I know therefore states that laying off members of your team should be a last resort. Since this kind of news is also usually closely related to your financial future you should make it your highest priority to keep this information secure. There is no room for error. Double, triple, and quadruple check all emails. Call over another member of your announcement team to check your work. You can never be too careful.

Members Only
Cut down on amateur errors by keeping the review process to a tight team of only those team members who need to be involved. Make sure everyone understands the damage an error could cause. Even though seasoned professionals can make a mistake, this is not a time to use coordinator level staff members. If you are working with an agency, request that newer and junior team members do not work on your announcement.

Advance Work
Work as far in advance as possible when drafting this news. Rushing to meet a deadline can increase errors. I worked closely with a small team for months in advance of our deadline when I announced layoffs and facility closures at one nonprofit. This allowed us to review work at a normal pace and decreased error prone “rush jobs.”

Secure Files
It may sound silly but basic rules such as using a codename and locking files for such an important project can keep the news from being accidentally “discovered” internally and shared publicly. Keep documents together including press releases, call center scripts, internal speeches, and schedules. If you need to use a shared server be sure to secure any related files and keep them in one central location.

Back-Up Plan
Plan for errors. Mistakes happen and people talk. Create a plan for if the news breaks early. You do not want to be racing around when the press calls. This will help you calmly move forward while in crisis mode. Crisis tips from Calvin and Hobbes.

How do you keep sensitive news secure?


One thought on “Avoid Premature Crises: 5 Lessons From Dow Chemical’s PR Disaster

  1. Pingback: 10 Ways to Stay Calm in a Crisis « BrianAdamsPR

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